Beagle - A Nose That Always Knows

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A couple of dog fanciers who also enjoyed doing a little research decided to test the ability of three different small hounds—a Scottish Terrier,a Fox Terrier, and a Beagle—to track a mouse by scent. A single mouse was released into a field for each dog. The Fox Terrier took almost fifteen minutes to find its mouse. The Scottish Terrier never found its mouse at all. And the Beagle? It took just about one minute to mark the scent of its mouse. No real surprise of course. The Beagle is famed for having just about the most discriminating set of nostrils in the doggie world.

Here is the Beagle at a Glance
Name Beagle
Other Names English Beagle
Nicknames None
Origin England
Average size Small
Average weight 20-25 pounds
Average height 13-16 inches at the shoulder
Life span 10-15 years
Coat type Smooth, dense double coat
Hypoallergenic No
Color White with tan and/or brown; tricolor
Popularity High
Intelligence Average
Tolerance to heat Does well
Tolerance to cold Low
Shedding Fairly low
Drooling Not bad
Obesity Low with proper diet control
Grooming/brushing Brush weekly
Barking Howls and bays
Exercise needs Not high
Trainability Stubborn, a challenge to train
Friendliness Loves everybody
Good first dog Okay
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Yes
Good with other dogs Okay
Good with other pets Okay
Good with strangers Yes
Good apartment dog Not great
Handles alone time well Not great
Health issues Spinal disk disease, hip dysplasia, glaucoma
Medical expenses $305 annually
Food expenses $120 annually
Miscellaneous expenses $130 annually
Average annual expense $555
Cost to purchase $500-$800
Biting Statistics Human attacks: 4 Maimings: 3 Deaths: 1 Child victims: 3
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The Beagle’s Beginnings

There are dogs, and there are old dogs, and there are really old dogs. As dog breeds go, the Beagle is really old. Its prey scenting forebears stretch back to the fifth century BC in Greece. The Greek historian Xenophon wrote a piece called “The Treatise on Hunting” that describes a Beagle progenitor that hunted rabbits by scent—something the modern-day Beagle still loves to do. Even in the old days, this little hound was seen as something special. In the eleventh century King Canute of England issued an ordinance, The Forest Laws, which ruled that any dog capable of running down one of the king’s royal stags should have a foot mutilated; but the Beagle’s ancestors of that day were exempt. Throughout that period, beagle types were bred, and cross-bred with other scent hounds, all of them considered beagle types, including a small breed, known as pocket beagles, that Queen Elizabeth I liked to take hunting. The cross-breeding continued through the eighteenth century, with different varieties of dog, some bigger, some smaller, some faster and some slower. All of them were called beagles, a term that some people think comes from an old French word that could translate roughly as “open mouth” while other folks think the term comes from a Gaelic word for “little.”

New Lease on Life

These beagle type dogs stayed popular with the nobilityfrom Queen Elizabeth’s time until the eighteenth century, when fox hunting became the thing to do, and the hunters wanted bigger dogs. Beagle types were crossed with Stag Hounds to create the modern Foxhound. The poor Beagle was looking at the end its the line without a royal boost, but England’s farmers and stockmen came to the rescue, because they knew you could not surpass the Beagle when it came to hunting rabbits, something that is still true today.

And in the mid eighteen hundreds, a preacher took up the Beagle’s cause. The Reverend Phillip Honeywell put three Beagle varieties—the Southern Hound, which was big and strong, but slow, the Northern Hound, which was smaller and faster, and a breed known as the Harrier—together to create the modern Beagle. Honeywell, bred a pack of hounds with these bloodlines in the 1830s, and then they were tweaked a little more by another breeder, Thomas Johnson, to smooth their coats and given them the look they have now. The Beagle has never looked back since then. It is consistently one of the most popular dogs around, and has even made its way into the comics. Snoopy has been the best known Beagle for half a century, but Garfield’s housemate Odie can’t be far behind, not to mention Mr. Peabody, the Beagle in Rocky and Bullwinkle that traveled around in a time machine. Beagles are just as well known in the real world, too. They are a main line of early warning for at least two dozen border crossing points and airports in the United States, where they can’t be beat when it comes to sniffing out contraband drugs, food and the like.

The Dog You See Today

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The modern Beagle is a medium small dog, running twenty to twenty-five pounds, and standing thirteen to sixteen inches high at the shoulder. It has short hair that is often tricolor, or else mainly white with a black saddle and tan or brown on the back and sides. The ears are long and very soft, and tend to be canted little bit forward. The eyes are a lustrous brown and extremely soft and gentle looking, and the nose is typically black. The neck is fairly long, which lets the Beagle bend down easily to track a scent, and Beagles do spent much of their time nose to ground. The Beagle has a hard double coat that resists rain.

The Inner Beagle

Temperament

They are sweethearts. They are gentle, loving and good natured. They adore people, especially children, and are great family dogs. They don’t, in fact, do well on their own. They don’t need a lot of active attention, but they do want their people to be around. They are not dogs that do well having to spend a lot of time alone.

Beagles are a little wary around strangers, although once they get to know you they are very affectionate. But that initial wariness around strangers makes them good watchdogs, and in that situation they are more likely to bark than to howl.

Finally, they howl. They may not bark a lot, but they do how—sometimes a full-throated baying, but more often a sort of half howl, half bark that they use when they are excited, or when they are hungry, or when they just feel like it. Obedience training will help, but because Beagles tend to be extremely focused on what they want, and pretty stubborn about wanting it, training will have its limits.

Living with a Beagle

What will training look like?

Training a Beagle is more work than it is with some other dogs. Beagles can be very stubborn and single minded. They are intelligent, but not that interested in pleasing people. They don’t care about learning tricks, but they were bred to be working dogs and they will put plenty of energy into any kind of tracking and trailing, because that is what they were born for. The best and most effective reward to use in training a Beagle, whether it is obedience training or any other kind, is of course food. Beagles have a reputation for being slow to housebreak, so this can be more demanding for the owner.

How active is the Beagle?

They don’t feel a need for a lot of exercise. If anything, they are too happy to lie around and not do much, so they may get fat just from lack of activity. But they are scent hounds, and so they have their noses into everything, in and out of the house. They need a secure yard or they will be off following fascinating smells. If you are able to take them hunting—small game like rabbits, for instance—they will be in heaven.

Beagles are not ideal apartment dogs, but can succeed in apartment living if the owner takes the time and energy needed. First of all, of course, is the fact that the neighbors may not be crazy about the dog’s howling, and the Beagle is likely to howl when it is lonely. It is also likely to get into things around the apartment when no one is paying attention, especially food.

Beagles won’t ask to be exercised, but they need a regular amount, otherwise they can get bored, which is a time they may start chewing things and digging holes. Exercise is also important to keep them from getting fat. This can become more of an issue with age, because older Beagles tend to be somewhat lazy, and more prone to just lie around.

Caring for the Beagle

Grooming needs

Beagles have a low maintenance level, there will be no stripping or trimming needed for example. It does shed a moderate amount though so and this will need to brushed using either a medium bristled brush or a hound glove once or twice a week at least. The hairs it sheds are short so while there is clean up to do it is not as noticeable as some other dogs. As the coat can get thicker in winter months there will be Spring seasonal shedding that will be heavier than normal. They do not need frequent bathing, just give a bath as needed. This will help keep the levels of natural oils in its skin at a healthy level.

Being a dog with droopy ears it will especially need its ears checked for infections once a week and wipe them clean. Avoid oils or water getting into them where possible. Do not insert anything into its ears to clean. Brush its teeth at least twice a week to avoid dental issues. Its nails need to be trimmed when they get too long but this should be undertaken by a professional like a groomer or vet, or by someone with experience and knowledge.

Feeding Time

They love food, and they will eat just about anything, so you have to keep an eye on them. They are definitely food thieves, so you will also have to keep an eye on the pantry, and never turn your back on a tasty piece of steak. When feeding dry dog food make sure you use a high quality kind that is nutritious for it. A good idea is to measure out the food it requires, between 1 1/2 to 2 cups a day, divided into two meals.

How they get on with children

Where Beagles are best is in a house full of people, especially children, with a reasonably large, secure yard. That allows the Beagle to explore, and also to play. Beagles are playful, which makes them really good pets in a family with kids. The only thing they can get touchy about is food, so it’s good to make sure children know not to tease them about their meals, or try to grab their food bowl.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Beagles are generally pretty healthy and not prone to a lot of serious medical problems. They do have some vulnerabilities however.

One risk is a problem called intervertebral disk disease. This is similar to what happens with people, where the soft part of the disk between the spinal vertebrae protrudes, causing pain and loss of bowel and bladder control. This has to be repaired surgically. Another disorder with some Beagles is hip dysplasia. Also, they are vulnerable to glaucoma, and early stage cataracts. Finally,becausethey have long, floppy ears that are in frequent contact with the ground as they stoop and sniff all those interesting things around them, they may be prone to different kinds of ear infections.

Biting Statistics

Looking at data covering the last 34 years of reports on dog attacks on people the Beagle can be seen to have been involved in 4 attacks. 3 of the victims were children and one child died. The other 3 were classed as maimings, meaning the victims were left with loss of limb, disfigurement and permanent scarring. It is important to note here that the death was not the result of a direct attack, the child had a leash wrapped around its neck and the Beagle involved kept pulling at it resulting in the child being strangled to death.

The Beagle is very unlikely to attack people and in those other 3 cases it is possible other dogs were involved, sometimes data is not clear about the details. Owners of dogs should take very seriously the importance of choosing the right dog to suit their lifestyle, being able to offer the dog what it needs in terms of mental and physical stimulation and undertaking training and socialization early.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

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Start with the initial purchase price. A Beagle pup typically costs from $500 to $800 from a licensed breeder. If you are lucky enough to find one at an animal shelter, the cost will of course be far less, something more like $200. There are also rescue organizations that specialize in Beagles, and the cost there may be somewhat less than at a breeder, but of course you are not getting a new puppy in that case, which for some people may actually be a plus, because the dog will be housetrained and may have had at least some obedience training.

Next, of course, your new puppy needs immunizations and other early medical stuff like de-worming, which will run $70 or so, plus spaying, which can run around $200. Then there are treats and toys, a leash and collar. And of course that puppy needs to eat, which for a Beagle will run you in the neighborhood of $120 a year. Then there is obedience training, which will usually set you back around $110 for an initial training round.

Dogs get sick and injured, and veterinary costs are gradually becoming more expensive. As a result, may dog owners are buying pet insurance, which can cost $200 a year or more.

In all, without including insurance, the average Beagle costs its own about $555a year.

Names

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  • Male Beagle Good Names
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  • Beagles are solid, loving, playful dogs. They are good family dogs, easygoing, relaxed and friendly. They are great with children. They are serious dogs, not frisky, and do best with they have a job to accomplish. They don’t care about learning tricks, but they are dedicated and determined trackers and hunters, and will happily put hours at a time into learning and doing the things that hunters and trackers do. Probably the ideal owner is someone who is able to take the Beagle into the field to chase rabbits.

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